Showing posts with label faith. Show all posts
Showing posts with label faith. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


The other evening, I watched the film Calvary written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, starring Brendan Gleeson, as Fr James, a good Roman Catholic priest serving in a small church in the north of Ireland. Gleeson's performance is riveting, comparable to Mark Rylance's work in Wolf Hall. In Wolf Hall, it was Rylance's eyebrows and silences that so often communicated without words.  Gleeson, who is a large bear of a man, appears in nearly every scene in the film, and his rough, mobile facial features speak volumes without words.

McDonagh's script doesn't flinch as it takes us through the via dolorosa, which is Fr James' everyday life and most surely tests his faith to its limits. The good priest has the heart of a pastor and goes about his parish work shouldering the burden, as many priests do, of the aftermath of the child abuse scandal.   A dark comic thread runs through the movie but does little to relieve the sadness and gloomy portent that pervade the film.  Though I was completely caught up in the story throughout the course of the film, I found it difficult and disturbing to watch, but, at the same time, it was impossible for me to turn away. Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal came to mind.

The movie was filmed in and around County Sligo in the north of Ireland.  Though the beach scene settings and recurring views of the impressive Benbulbin rock formation are picturesque, I could not help but think of the town and the surroundings as relentlessly godforsaken places.

Writing about Calvary was probably the most difficult review of any I've ever done, because I admire the film greatly, and I wanted to get the words right.  Gleeson is magnificent in his role, and, though he dominates the film, the supporting cast of characters are intriguing and talented enough to hold their own.  In his script and direction, McDonagh resists any temptation to cater to the audience or take the easy way out in tackling difficult and controversial subjects in this splendid and powerful film.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Tom's diagnosis of colon cancer rocked us both.  The weeks while we waited for the processes leading up to surgery to be completed were difficult, but we tried to keep busy and distracted, and we mostly succeeded.   The news after the surgery was surely as good as could be expected: the tumor was small, and the nearby lymph nodes were cancer free, and there was joy in Butlerland when Tom came home. 

Then, within a few days, came Tom's loss of appetite and vomiting.  I knew something was very wrong when I saw the greenish-black bile, but x-rays in the doctor's office were inconclusive as to whether there was an obstruction.  The vomiting continued, and Tom was readmitted to the hospital, and it was determined that there was an obstruction, a complication that never happens, but leave it to Tom... 

Tom is recovering nicely now, probably doing a bit too much too soon, but, so far, he appears to have done no harm to himself.  I told him if he has to go back in the hospital, I will not visit, but that's not true.

All of the above took a toll on both of us, and, though Tom seems the same, I'm sure the experience changed him, but in a way I can't yet see.  What I do know is that I have not yet regained my emotional equilibrium, such as it was, since the surgery.  I've thought about why I'm not yet my old self, and, indeed, somewhat accepted the fact that I may never be my old self, because life is change.

My one conclusion thus far is that when I was diagnosed with breast cancer 29 years ago, I looked my own death in the face, and I was changed.  The word "cancer" has a way of concentrating the mind wonderfully on the reality that humans, including me, are mortal.  I've been blessed with 29 years of life after the dread diagnosis, and I'm most grateful for the years, every one of which seems a gift.

But (and it's a huge "but") I had not faced Tom's mortality in any real way until now.  The good news is that I've come to realize in a way that I didn't before how much he means to me, but the not-so-good news is that the reality is scary, and my emotions, which are almost always near the surface, are out of kilter and somewhat flattened and kept at bay.  What to do? 

When two people live together for 53-plus years, the rather minor annoying habits of the other can come to loom rather large in daily life, so I've determined not to call Tom's attention to every little annoyance and to make a general attempt to be kinder and less of a scold.  In other words, don't sweat the small stuff.  And be kind.

In time, I hope to recover emotional equilibrium, and I believe I will, but, in the meantime, I'm thankful for each day Tom and I have together, and I will try to be kind, and not just to Tom.  I will often fail, but I hope I don't give up trying.

When certain Christians ask, "Are you saved?" I answer, "Yes, every day."  And that's true, and some few days I need to be saved from just lying in bed all day.  A strength that seemed to come from beyond me carried me through the stressful period, and I trust that same source, God in Jesus, will carry me the rest of the way.  You see, I believe salvation is about here and now, for today, and not so much for the sweet bye-and-bye, because I have no idea what happens in the sweet bye-and-bye.  But I have today, for which I'm grateful, and I believe God is with me, with us, to give us healing, strength, and courage.

Sunday, March 2, 2014


In his post titled "More Songs About Buildings and Food", Rmj, who blogs at Adventus, asks a question at the very end.
What is, or should be, the core concern of Christians?
Is it all right if I quote the Scriptures? :-) Below is my answer:
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8)

He [Jesus] said to him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22: 37-40)

In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets. (Matthew 7:12)
For me, the only way to begin to live the teachings I quoted is "in Christ". Some days, the only way I get out of bed in the morning is "in Christ" - Christ working in me. For me, that is salvation, which I need every single day. Thanks, Rmj, for making me think about my faith.  To my surprise, answering the question was not difficult, because my response came easily.  It was almost as though I was waiting for the question.

The passages I quoted are touchstones that work for me, day by day, to keep me focused on being not only a speaker of the words, but also a doer of the words I quoted.  Also, I like to keep things simple, for I am a simple person with a simple mind.  "In Christ" is where I find strength and courage (salvation), especially in difficult times (literally, on occasion), to put one foot in front of the other to keep going.

Rmj quoted my response at the beginning of another post, along with very kind words.  Whoa!  And then he asked another question.  After thanking him, I left the following comment:
You ask: ...what if, instead of coming into the presence of God for a spiritual recharge or refill, we came into the presence of the living God with fear and trembling? ...the existential awe that creates an awfulness (in the old sense of the world, being filled with awe) at the nature of God, an awe that would put the world in perspective.
What if? Might it be with an attitude of the heart like the imagery of the twenty-four elders in the passage from the Book of Revelation (one of my favorites)?
...the twenty-four elders fall before the one who is seated on the throne and worship the one who lives for ever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne, singing,
‘You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honour and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created
.' (Rev. 4:10-11)
Then you ask: Would that be a religionless Christianity?

I don't know, but I believe such an attitude of the heart has little to do with a person's membership in a particular Christian denomination.
Those of you who read what I've written may wonder how well I live up to the fine words and ideals and how often I worship God with all my heart.  My answer is easy: Not very well, and not as often as I should.  Still, I believe I do better living my life "in Christ" - not better than anyone else - but better than I would otherwise.

Rmj, thanks again for the nudge to ponder and write a bit about the present state of my faith.

Image from Mouse Runner.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber:
I once heard someone say that my belief in Jesus makes them suspect that I intellectually suck my thumb at night. But I cannot pretend, as much as I would sometimes like to, that I have not throughout my life experienced the redeeming, destabilizing love of a surprising God. Even as my mind protests, I still can't deny my experience. This thing is real to me. Sometimes I experience God when someone speaks the truth to me, sometimes in the moments when I admit I am wrong, sometimes in the loving of someone unlovabl, sometimes in the reconciliation that feels like it comes from somewhere outside of myself, but almost always when I experience God it comes in the form of some kind of death and resurrection.

(Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix; The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint)
How often have I said I need saving every day? I've lost count. Maybe not quite what Nadia says, for my deaths and resurrections are daily, sometimes more than once a day. Saying I believe in God is not accurate, because, as best I recall, I never did not believe in God.  Throughout the course of my life I've known the Thereness of God, even when I did not pay attention. There was no leap of faith for me ever, because God was always real to me, though I wondered at times if she had anything to do with me after starting it all. As with Nadia, there would be no point in trying to argue me out of the faith because of the very real happenings and changes in me that happened because of the presence of God in my life. Of course, some might say all is delusion, but I won't be convinced.

Have you guessed that I read Nadia's book? I read quickly for she captured and held my attention from the introduction to the end. Nadia's concept of church seems very right to me. You will hear more from me about her book, which I recommend highly, and I'll probably include further quotes.

Monday, May 20, 2013


"You must let go of all conception of what eternity is, which means letting go of who you are, in order to feel the truth of eternity and its meaning in your life - and in your death."

My Bright Abyss; Meditation of a Modern Believer by Christian Wiman.
A few days ago, the book arrived in my mailbox, but I have not yet read it.  I have thumbed through and found brief passages much to my liking, such as the words quoted above.
Mathew Sitman reviewed the book at The Daily Dish

The New York Times published a  Q&A  between John Williams and the author.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Colin Coward at Changing Attitude:
On the contrary, from my experience, I know that Christian worship is often complacent, reinforcing tradition, focussed on maintenance and survival, bums on pews, money on the plate, rather than the redeeming, liberating power of being born anew in the Holy Spirit into the resurrection energy of Christ. (And a danger here is to think emotionalism equates with this experience – I’m writing about something far deeper and more disturbing)

I don’t think that what I’m trying to describe has been researched. Maybe it’s impossible to research because as I know from experience, it’s hard to talk about and describe to other people, the feelings, ideas, insights, intuitions, that can flow when, in stillness, silence and open-hearted contemplation you open yourself to the infinitely loving presence of the living God. In that space, resistance melts, dogma becomes irrelevant, and deep truth seems to grasp awareness. (My emphasis)
Read Colin's entire post.  It is excellent.  Colin is one of a group of six members of the LGB&T Anglican Coalition who will meet with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby this coming Thursday for a conversation.  Since the discussion is confidential, Colin will not issue a report.  Pray that the conversation will bear good fruit.

I, too, find it difficult to describe the effect of the presence of God in my life, but Colin comes quite close in his words - so close that I felt a frisson.  And it's not that we suddenly become saintly in all we do and say, but the change of heart runs deep and changes how we think and view the world and each other.  For me, the best way I know to move forward in living the Gospel is to keep things simple and be mindful of the Two Great Commandments and the Golden Rule.
He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’
(Matthew 27:32-40)
In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.
(Matthew 7:12) 

Thursday, April 11, 2013


IT IS hard to imagine a prime minister doing such a thing now, and even then it seemed rather surprising. In May 1988 Margaret Thatcher went to the General Assembly of the (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland and gave what would soon be called the Sermon on the Mound. It was an impassioned statement of a certain form of Christianity. The Conservative leader stressed individual salvation over social reform, the legitimacy of moneymaking when combined with altruism, and the “responsibility that comes with freedom and the supreme sacrifice of Christ”.

In religion, as in so much else, Mrs (later Lady) Thatcher was a bundle of paradoxes. She was the last British prime minister openly and emphatically to acknowledge the influence of Christianity on her thinking, in particular terms not fuzzy ones.

Precisely because she had such well-defined ideas, Mrs Thatcher was almost bound to have stormy relations with England’s established religion. In her time, the Archbishop of Canterbury was Robert Runcie (pictured above), an Oxford contemporary who irked her considerably. A decorated tank commander, he commemorated the Argentine dead at a service following the Falklands war; he produced “Faith in the City”, a left-wing tract on urban blight; and he chided the government for demonising its opponents. Mrs Thatcher preferred the chief rabbi, Immanuel Jakobovits, who shared her view that self-improvement, not subsidies, would relieve poverty.

She helped to ensure that Archbishop Runcie was succeeded by George Carey, an unpretentious evangelical who this week remembered her as a person of “uncomplicated but very strong faith”.
Thatcher's political philosophy, nurtured by her view of Christianity that little resembles the Gospel, put the baroness squarely on the side of pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps and not looking to the government for support.  Her speech makes for quite an interesting read, and it's easy to see why she and Runcie did not get on, and why she wished to insure that he was not followed by another archbishop who would write "left-wing tracts" against war and sympathizing with the plight of the poor and unemployed.   Thatcher speaks of the Kingdom of God in her speech:
The New Testament is a record of the Incarnation, the teachings of Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God. Again we have the emphasis on loving our neighbour as ourselves and to "Do-as-you-would-be-done-by".

I believe that by taking together these key elements from the Old and New Testaments, we gain: a view of the universe, a proper attitude to work, and principles to shape economic and social life.

We are told we must work and use our talents to create wealth. "If a man will not work he shall not eat" wrote St. Paul to the Thessalonians. Indeed, abundance rather than poverty has a legitimacy which derives from the very nature of Creation.
Thatcher's view of the Kingdom of God sounds very like the prosperity gospel preached today.  All Christians are meant to be prosperous, and those who are poor - well it's their own doing.

Monday, April 1, 2013



So there you have it–my argument that the stool upon which we sit when we do theology is horribly unsteady. No matter how careful we are in our deliberations, the work is little more than individual and societal projections on material that is more or less archaic and irrelevant. Theology may be helpful for critical self-reflection but I am not sure about much else. However, the big problem is not for theology as a discipline. There is still much to be examined and dissected–histories to reconstruct, ideas to be unpacked, theologies to be contextualized. What is scarier to me are the implications of this post (and they do scare me). I am not just talking about the limits of our understanding but also how we encounter and understand the divine. If text, tradition, and reason/experience are unreliable guides, where then shall we turn?

The big question for me as the sun sets on Good Friday is whether or not I should be waiting for a resurrection. God is dead. Can God rise?
The three legs of the stool to which David Creech, a postdoctoral teaching fellow in the humanities at Loyola University Chicago, refers are Texts, Tradition, and Reason - yes our own Anglican stool, which is perhaps not so useful to us Anglicans as it once was.  First off, I'd suggest that you read Creech's entire post in which I found much to value.  At the end, he asks for feedback, and I left the comment that follows.
Grandmère Mimi
I agree that each of us who thinks seriously about our faith makes up our own theology based in one degree or another on text, tradition, and reason (and experience). Is God dead? Yes. Can God rise? Yes. For me the cycle happens every day. Daily, I experience death and resurrection with God. Without the grace of God in my life, I don’t know that I would be capable of carrying on. Not that my life is extremely difficult, for it is not, especially compared to the lives of others whom I know and others whom I don’t know, but I hear their stories.

The Scriptures contain a few verses which I call my touchstone verses, which I firmly believe point to the way I ought to live my life.
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8)

“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ (Matthew 22:36-40)
Holding on to these life-giving words as my ideal as to how I live my life, I’m able to theologize away and, at the same time, keep my my view of God and my faith life simple. Even if I completely lost my faith tomorrow, I believe I’d still want to live my life according to the instructions in my touchstone verses.
Theology is all well and good, and I enjoy reading, discussing, and thinking about theology, but the practice of my faith has much more to do with what happens to me in my encounters with God, because my relationship with God is what gives true meaning to my life of faith.  Intellectualizing my way into faith would not take me far without the experience of what happens between God and me.  A purely intellectual faith, if such a faith exists, is an enigma to me.

And, as I said in my comment, for me, it is necessary to find a way to keep my faith simple for those periods when I have much on my mind and little time for theologizing, and I want to acknowledge and accept the grace of God operating in my life.

H/T to Jim Naughton at The Lead for the link to David Creech's post.

Monday, January 14, 2013


David Hayward - “the need to leave” (watercolor on paper, 7″x10″)

...of age
...of arthritis
...of energy
...of time

Contrary to the words of the poet, it is not, as they say, least not yet for me and may require a lengthy period of adjustment.  I think of Walter Cronkite's sign-off, "And that's the way it is."  Except for loosening of time constraints, the other limitations are unlikely to change for the better.  The task is to keep them at bay for as long as possible, so they don't worsen too quickly.  And what is too quickly?  Well, too quickly to suit me, who doesn't care for the limitations at all.

At the age of 78, I'm bound to think of mortality and view the future as somewhat compressed, right?  Some folks, like Grandpère, live in denial of the reality of death, but when I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 51, I looked death in the face, and there was no turning back to denial.  To me, it's both funny and tragic when people deny death.  I'll never forget the time I told GP, "The death rate is 100%," and he said, "For whom?"  My black humor did not go over well.

Anyway, I'm easing into a completely different mindset about life in general and my own life.  There are so many things that I want to do and so many changes that I want to see happen before I die, but I know I will not do or see most of them, and I must come to acceptance and ease with the reality.  The difficulty is to sort out the priorities of what is still possible to do and move out of stasis.

If you detect a pinch of depression in my diary post, you are probably correct.  It's there lurking at the edge, but I've not yet fully acknowledged and accepted it yet.  We've experienced a good deal of turmoil and distress in our extended family, and, though the situations have improved, I feel I'm allowed a bit of depression now that things are looking up...if that makes any sense.  My depression is not severe, the descent into a black hole sort, so I carry on in hopes that this, too, shall pass.

To all that I've written here, I must add that it's my faith that lifts me and carries me.  The knowledge that I have praying friends who will support me through the tough times, is of inestimable value.  Without my sense of God's presence, I'd face all of what happened recently and all of what's going on now with much more angst, (though angst there was and is) and much less equanimity, and so I say, "Thanks be to God."
You’ve got your limitations; let them sing,
And all your life will waken with a cry:
Why should you halt when rapture’s on the wing
And you’ve no limit but the cloud-flocked sky?...

(From "Limitations" by Siegfried Sassoon)
Easy for you to say at the age of 34, Sassoon, but not so easy to practice when you're 78.  Still, the thought is worth a place in my mind, and the ideal is worth a reach.

The lovely painting at the head of the post is by David Hayward aka nakedpastor.   He posted the painting noting that it was available for purchase.  I waited a few days, but I found the painting irresistible and bought it.  In the poem beneath the painting, David says:
You’ve kept your place. You’ve held your ground. You’ve filled your space. You’ve stayed in bounds.
But something calls. You know you must. You forsake all. You will be blessed.
It’s time to go. It’s time to leave. This much you know: this is your peace.
The wonderful painting caused me to reflect on life, how we are always in motion, leaving and forsaking, traveling, and arriving at new places and eventually led to this post, for better or for worse.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012



A favorite passage from one of my favorite books is the quote below from Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited. Charles Ryder and Sebastian Flyte, two young Englishmen, meet at Oxford in the period between the two world wars. Charles is not a believer, and Sebastian is from an aristocratic Roman Catholic family. After they've been friends for a while, Sebastian brings up the subject of his faith and Catholicism. What follows is the dialogue between the two:
(Sebastian) “Oh dear, it’s very difficult being a Catholic!”

(Charles) “Does it make much difference to you?”

(Sebastian:) “Of course. All the time.”

(Charles) “Well, I can’t say I’ve noticed it. Are you struggling against temptation? You don’t seem much more virtuous than me.”

(Sebastian) “I’m very, very much wickeder,” said Sebastian indignantly.

(Charles) “… I suppose they try to make you believe an awful lot of nonsense?”

(Sebastian) “Is it nonsense? I wish it were. It sometimes sounds terribly sensible to me.”

(Charles) “But my dear Sebastian, you can’t seriously believe it all.”

(Sebastian) “Can’t I?”

(Charles) “I mean about Christmas and the star and the three kings and the ox and the ass.”

(Sebastian) “Oh yes. I believe that. It’s a lovely idea.”

(Charles) “But you can’t believe things because they’re a lovely idea.”

(Sebastian) “But I do. That’s how I believe.”
I love the passage, because Sebastian describes how I believe, too. It's very much the stories, the myths (not myths in the sense of something that's not true - myths in the sense of universal truths) that draw me into Christianity.

(Edited and reposted from 2007.)

Monday, December 17, 2012


Anchor, Catacomb of Priscilla, Rome
I've heard and read many words about the terrible tragedy in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, - many kind and comforting words, along with horrible and ill-conceived responses.  I've hesitated to add more words, thus I've mostly posted prayers and brief tributes to those who died and prayers and sympathy for those who grieve.

Yesterday, I heard a fine sermon preached in my church.  The main message I took away from the sermon is the good news of hope in the midst of tragedy nearly too awful to contemplate.   Since Advent is the season of waiting in great hope for the celebration of the coming of Christ Incarnate as a helpless babe 2000 years ago, I've continued with the traditions of Advent, the season of expectancy and hope, for, at this time, I do not know what else to do.  Words cannot express the depth of my sadness nor my thankfulness for my faith and the prayers and traditions of the Christian community, which anchor my soul to hope in the Good News.

Hebrews 6:19-20
We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, having become a high priest for ever according to the order of Melchizedek.
The time will come for more words and especially for deeds, but not now, not today, not for me.

A Collect for Peace
Most holy God, the source of all good desires, all right judgments, and all just works: Give to us, your servants, that peace which the world cannot give, so that our minds may be fixed on the doing of your will, and that we, being delivered from the fear of all enemies, may live in peace and quietness; through the mercies of Christ Jesus our Savior. Amen.

(Book of Common Prayer)

Friday, July 6, 2012


CERN, via Associated Press

Proton collisions from the search for Higgs boson.

Now that you know it's probable that the God particle (Higgs boson) started it all, have you lost your faith?

Saturday, February 25, 2012


The oldest icon of Christ Pantocrator, encaustic on panel, c. 6th century (Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai).

(Click on the icon for the larger view.)

Today we had a quiet day at my church. The day was fruitful with new insights on God Incarnate, a favorite subject of mine. During part of our quiet time, the image on the upper left was projected on a screen for us to use to meditate if we so look through the eyes of the icon to see God, which I found easy, since the eyes compel attention.

Certain family members are going through a difficult period right now, and in answer to one question that was posed to us, 'How do you see God?' my answer at the first moment was, 'Missing'. 'God, where are you in the midst of this mess?' I suppose we were to answer truthfully, even though we answered only to ourselves. I know God is in the midst of the mess, but I don't feel God's presence, and I don't see the results from my prayers that I'd like.

The priest who conducted the day of silence gave us several passages from Scripture to read and then ruminate, as he put it, like a cow chews the cud, swallows, and regurgitates, and then chews again, which I thought was helpful imagery. One of the passages assigned was Revelation 21:1-6.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
‘See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’

And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.
Yes, yes, one day, but what about now? And then, as I ruminated, the words struck me with force: ‘See, I am making all things new.’ Right here, right now, God is at work making all things new. Right now, before Christ comes again, God is revealing, moving, changing in relation to all of us involved in the mess, in ways I cannot see, but are nevertheless happening, as I see through the eyes of faith the assurance of things hoped for.

During part of the quiet time, I strolled through the cemetery behind our church, which is a wonderfully peaceful place. I thought of the appropriateness of the reminders all around me of 'dust to dust' in this first week of Lent. I took pictures, too, of the various types of monuments, which I will post later in a picture essay.

Image from Wikipedia.

Monday, December 19, 2011


From this Story of the Day:
Can you prove any of the stuff you
believe in? my son asked me & when I
said that's not how belief works, he
nodded & said that's what he thought
but he was just checking to make sure he
hadn't missed a key point.
To an exchange in the comments:

The Annunciation - Botticelli
Grandmère Mimi said...

What if I say I believe the story happened, but I can't prove it? What if I say I believe because it's a lovely story?

My evidence is in my heart, in my change from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh. My evidence is how I live my life because I believe the story. Not that I'm good or holy, because I'm not, but that I'm a far better person because I believe the story. The story changed my life. That is my evidence.


Murdoch Matthew said...

Everything in our minds is story -- we understand and remember through language. The lives we live, the things we do, these are reality. You've got that right.

I think that good people reflect credit on their traditions more than that they are products of the tradition. The best priest I ever knew, one who drew me and many others to the Episcopal Church by his example, was (I came to realize) a product of his German Lutheran youth. There are good people in all traditions -- and none. Whatever happened in the past happened -- NOW is the time we live in.
Adoration of the Shepherds - Caravaggio

Thanks to Ann for the 'Adoration of the Shepherds'. I had already decided to use the painting in the post, but she confirmed my decision. Great minds....

Monday, December 5, 2011


There was once a man who didn't believe in God, and he didn't hesitate to let others know how he felt about religion and religious holidays, like Christmas. His wife, however, did believe, and she raised their children to also have faith in God and Jesus, despite his disparaging comments.

One snowy Christmas Eve, his wife was taking their children to a Christmas Eve service in the farm community in which they lived. She asked him to come, but he refused. "That story is nonsense!" he said. "Why would God lower Himself to come to Earth as a man? That's ridiculous!" So she and the children left, and he stayed home.

A while later, the winds grew stronger and the snow turned into a blizzard. As the man looked out the window, all he saw was a blinding snowstorm. He sat down to relax before the fire for the evening. Then he heard a loud thump. Something had hit the window. Then another thump. He looked out, but couldn't see more than a few feet.

When the snow let up a little, he ventured outside to see what could have been beating on his window. In the field near his house he saw a flock of wild geese. Apparently they had been flying south for the winter when they got caught in the snowstorm and could not go on. They were lost and stranded on his farm, with no food or shelter. They just flapped their wings and flew around the field in low circles, blindly and aimlessly. A couple of them had flown into his window, it seemed.

The man felt sorry for the geese and wanted to help them. The barn would be a great place for them to stay, he thought. It is warm and safe; surely they could spend the night and wait out the storm. So he walked over to the barn and opened the doors wide, then watched and waited, hoping they would notice the open barn and go inside. But the geese just fluttered around aimlessly and did not seem to notice the barn or realize what it could mean for them.

The man tried to get their attention, but that just seemed to scare them and they moved further away. He went into the house and came back out with some bread, broke it up, and made a breadcrumbs trail leading to the barn. They still didn't catch on. Now he was getting frustrated. He got behind them and tried to shoo them toward the barn, but they only got more scared and scattered in every direction except toward the barn. Nothing he did could get them to go into the barn where they would be warm and safe.

"Why don't they follow me?!" he exclaimed. "Can't they see this is the only place where they can survive the storm?" He thought for a moment and realized that they just wouldn't follow a human. "If only I were a goose, then I could save them," he said out loud. Then he had an idea. He went into barn, got one of his own geese, and carried it in his arms as he circled around behind the flock of wild geese. He then released it. His goose flew through the flock and straight into the barn -- and one by one the other geese followed it to safety.

He stood silently for a moment as the words he had spoken a few minutes earlier replayed in his mind: "If only I were a goose, then I could save them!" Then he thought about what he had said to his wife earlier. "Why would God want to be like us? That's ridiculous!" Suddenly it all made sense. That is what God had done. We were like the geese -- blind, lost, perishing. God had His Son become like us so He could show us the way and save us. That was the meaning of Christmas, he realized. As the winds and blinding snow died down, his soul became quiet and pondered this wonderful thought. Suddenly he understood what Christmas was all about, why Christ had come. Years of doubt and disbelief vanished like the passing storm. He fell to his knees in the snow, and prayed his first prayer:

"Thank You Jesus for coming in human form to show me the way out of the storm!"

By David L. Griffith
Thanks to Mark at Facebook and to Nij in the comments here for a shorter version.

Sunday, July 31, 2011


From Tim Chesterton at Faith, Folk and Charity:
Those of you who pray, please pray for my good friend and colleague Joe Walker. Joe is married to Alisa and is the father of four school age children, Emily, Adam, Sarah Joy, and Justin; he is also the rector of St. Timothy’s Anglican Church here in Edmonton. Back in June Joe was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive and fast-acting form of cancer; he has one fast-growing tumour in the small intestine and another on the liver. For various reasons his cancer is inoperable, and from a medical point of view all that can be done is to keep him as comfortable as possible.

Joe’s wife Alisa has recently sent out this letter and asked that it be passed around.
You can read the letter at Tim's blog, which is linked above.
May God the Father bless Joe, God the Son heal him, God the Holy Spirit give him strength. May God the holy and undivided Trinity guard his body, save his soul, and bring him safely to the heavenly country; where God lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Sanctify, O Lord, those whom you have called to care for Joe, especially Alisa. Strengthen them by your life-giving Spirit, that by their ministries the health of the community may be promoted and your creation glorified; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


Reinhold Niebuhr:
“Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope.

“Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith.

“Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love.

“No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint.

“Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness."

H/T to Rmj at Adventus.

Monday, April 12, 2010


From the Telegraph in June of 2003, when Jeffery John had been chosen as bishop-elect of Reading in England, but before he was pressed to step down by his good friend, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, comes this charming and quite moving piece by the writer, A. N. Wilson.

The Bishop Elect of Reading, the Revd Jeffrey John, has attracted a lot of notice, particularly in this newspaper. The reason is that he has been brave enough to admit that he is a homosexual. He lives with his friend, but tells us that he will in future be celibate.

I was asked recently whether I had been at the Oxford theological college St Stephen's House at the same time as he was.

As it happens, I think I'm a bit older than Dr John. In the mists of time, I remember meeting him, and I think he was chaplain of Magdalen College, Oxford. He asked me to give a talk to the undergraduates, and I seem to recollect a fairly earnest evening discussing religion and literature. He is certainly not the wild gay revolutionary depicted in the media.

At Staggers (as St Stephen's was known), they gave most of the students "names in religion". This meant that the young men called one another by girls' names. Young homosexuals of my acquaintance aren't camp in this way any more. That whole Colony Room, Francis Bacon tradition of calling one another a silly bitch has rather gone out, to be replaced by earnestness of one kind or another.

The quoted text does not at all do justice to Wilson's entire column, which is titled, "Tawdry Audrey, Bobo, Maud, Pearl . . . all better men than I".

If you recall, in my post on Bishop Barry Morgan's Easter sermon, the bishop quotes Wilson. Wilson grew up in the faith, grew out of the faith, and later returned to the faith.

Thanks to Lapin for the link to Wilson's piece.

Cathy sent me the link to the lovely story of Wilson's return to the faith in the New Statesman in April of 2009.

Here's a snippet from Wilson's story, which includes a reference to Bonhoeffer:

I haven't mentioned morality, but one thing that finally put the tin hat on any aspirations to be an unbeliever was writing a book about the Wagner family and Nazi Germany, and realising how utterly incoherent were Hitler's neo-Darwinian ravings, and how potent was the opposition, much of it from Christians; paid for, not with clear intellectual victory, but in blood. Read Pastor Bonhoeffer's book Ethics, and ask yourself what sort of mad world is created by those who think that ethics are a purely human construct. Think of Bonhoeffer's serenity before he was hanged, even though he was in love and had everything to look forward to.